An academic degree or some kind of professional training distinction is a mark of discipline. There's an understanding that you have done the work, you measure up to the standard and you're more likely to know what you're doing. There's a level of respect accorded to someone with some kind of distinction.
I find that University is not for learning things, per se. It's for learning how to learn. At least, that's the way I saw it and that's the way I've used my degree. How much information from my courses have I really gotten to use in my work? Well, nothing and everything.
I'm not doing the exact tasks from my courses, but I'm using the same skills that I learned while doing those tasks. These are some of the ones I remember:
How to Define the Problem
You can't really solve a problem unless you know what the problem is to begin with. Getting a handle on the problem is not as easy a task as it sounds. What exactly are you trying to do? What is the scope of the problem? What assumptions are you making? Are those reasonable assumptions to make with respect to the scope? What's the worst thing that could happen if you're wrong?
This is so fundamental, yet it's also amazingly easy to forget, professionally and personally.
How to Ask Good Questions
Knowing when/how to get help and how to ask questions is important. People always say, "there's no such thing as a stupid question", but that's just to be encouraging. There ARE stupid questions. If you keep asking stupid thoughtless questions, you'll lose the respect of those around you. But asking well researched, well thought-out questions shows you've done as much as you can which speaks to your integrity and work ethic.
How to Take Tests
You learn the ability to write exams. Is it fair to have three months worth of course work come down to a two hour exam? Sure, it is. Except it could be ten or fifteen years of your professional expertise under the microscope for fifteen minutes. Get used to it.
To have the entirety of what you know be measured in one moment is something that happens in life. All. The. Time. It happens in job interviews and that extends to business meetings. If you are a vendor, your client is going to want to know that they're going to get what they pay for before they award you the contract. You'll be evaluated in a few meetings at most. Instead of just selling yourself, like in a job interview, you're selling your company, your organization and your entire staff behind you.
Pressure of Deadlines
The pressure of deadlines is always there in school. Life is full of deadlines. Time limits are a reality in any line of work. School is a safe place where there are varying consequences of missing deadlines, but fortunately, few of them are that dire.
People are diverse in a University environment. Being involved in school things gave me the opportunity to work as a part of many different types of teams with different leadership and operation styles. You learn a lot about interpersonal dynamics working with group projects in class. Outside of class, there's student council, department student societies, clubs, etc. Each person has a role and their own responsibilities (President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc.) which is very similar to a corporate environment.
You learn to work with people who have different personality traits and that's important. You may also find lifelong friends and/or business partners.
Leadership is a part of it too. To be a good leader, I believe you have to first be a good follower/do-er. The leader has to understand what each person in their team is doing, be able to guide progress and juggle the project tasks between time, budget and functionality constraints. The three of them are almost ALWAYS conflicting.
These are not innate skills. It takes years and years of seeing examples and experiencing things first hand.